Tuesday, December 23, 2014

OMG, I'm Doing an Audio Book!

by Sally C. Berneathy

I am in the process of getting my first audio book out there. As a self-published author, the whole process is up to me. Yikes! It’s simple to upload a formatted document to Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords and CreateSpace. But an audio book involves somebody reading the entire book and magically making that recording available for download by the world!

However, several readers have asked me about audio books, so I finally decided to give it a try. I heard from other Indie published authors that I could offer a 50/50 royalty split and not have to spend any up-front money. Since this is my first effort and I expected to sell maybe a dozen copies, I decided that was the way to go.

I put the information about the book out there, including an excerpt, and after a couple of days, I had five auditions reading that excerpt. I was on my way!

Several friends suggested I narrate the book myself since my main character sounds a lot like me. (No surprise there; I write her dialogue!)

I am a frustrated actress and love making speeches and telling stories. But I have no professional experience and would have no idea how to go about making a recording or having it edited. That was never an option. I was thrilled to have five narrators to choose from.

I went offline for three days, unplugged my computer and moved all my furniture to have my carpet cleaned. When I got back online, I had over forty auditions, some very good. Now I had a tough choice!

During the ensuing week, I listened to those auditions over and over…and the new ones that kept coming in…up to a total of sixty-two. I became incredibly tired of listening to that same excerpt from my book over and over and over! It’s disconcerting to hear someone else read my words aloud, but after listening that many times, I decided it was the most horrible writing ever done by anybody in the history of the world and should be deleted from my book sooner rather than later!

As I caught up on the emails accumulated while I was offline, I realized why I’d had such an influx of auditions. Amazon offered a $100 per narrator hour stipend for my book in addition to the royalty sharing I offered! Suddenly the project went from an experimental lark to see if I could sell a few copies to a real audio book that Amazon believed would make both of us a lot of money. Choosing a narrator became a serious task.

Immediately I dragged out a copy of that book and began another round of edits (somewhere around number 578) with the idea of rewriting sentences that read all right on the page but would not come across so well when spoken aloud. This was a learning experience for future books. Note to self: It doesn’t matter if a reader can puzzle out a multi-phrase sentence after rereading it half a dozen times! Not good! Short, simple sentences. Reserve the complex for legal documents.

Most of the sixty-two auditions were very good, very professional. I eliminated the two with British accents since my books are set in Kansas City, and I eliminated the ones with soft voices, the ones that would work better for romance novels. Finally I had the choices narrowed down to twenty-three and simply could not rule out any more. I sought help. I sent the auditions to various friends to get their opinions.

Most of my friends agreed on the number one choice, a lady named Sarianna. She WAS Lindsay, my heroine. She sounded, they said, like me except in a professional way.

My boyfriend presented me with a spreadsheet putting the twenty-three finalists in order, rating each one on a scale of one through ten, and commenting on each of them. Sarianna was third down the list and only got an eight. I told him many of my friends liked her best. He replied, “She’s okay, but there’s just something about her voice that irritates me. I couldn’t stand to listen to her for an entire book.”

Oh, well, all righty, then! When I told him my friends thought she sounded like me, he declared she absolutely did not. (Too late! He got in a world of trouble over that one!)

Sarianna accepted my offer, and we have been working together on the audio book. She records portions and sends them to me for my approval as to her interpretation of the various characters.

Sunday we Skyped (my first Skype!) and discussed the main characters. She’s doing an amazing job, but we did have to talk about the Texas accent thing. One of my main characters is from Dallas, and I had to explain that people from Dallas do not sound like the characters on the TV show! She had me read a couple of lines and studied my accent. I was very impressed with the way she analyzed my pronounciation of each word then replicated the sounds. My friend and I made a great choice. She is an incredibly talented professional.

Knowing that Sarianna is utilizing her expertise to bring my words to life gives me a lot more confidence about this entire project. Upon her advice, I have decided not to delete that passage I listened to a thousand times. But that means I’ll have to listen to it again when the book is finished and I give my final approval! NOT looking forward to that!



  1. You are too funny. Say your favorite word - chocolate - 63 times then see how ridiculous it sounds.

    So excited for you - I can't wait to LISTEN to Death by Chocolate!

  2. I love audio books and listen to them almost as much as I read! Can hardly wait to listen to yours.

  3. Thanks, Sally, for letting us see how one version of this process works--and for making us laugh as we learn. Best of luck with the audiobook!

  4. Great post Sally! I'm also considering doing an audio book of my next Carrie Mae novel. It was good to hear how the process went for you!